What are paraphilias?

Jonah Lester
What are paraphilias?

Paraphilias are considered to be unusual patterns of sexual behavior in which the source of pleasure is found in some object, situation or person. We could define them as sexual behaviors in which desire, excitement or pleasure depends on unusual elements.

It is a term that comes from the Greek and is formed from the union of “para” (together with) and “philía” (love).

Most of the paraphilias are classified as harmless, although there are exceptions since some can cause physical and / or psychological damage to some of the participants. Paraphilic is because:

  • Look for the risk, since it causes sexual arousal.
  • They need to feel power, in most paraphilias the person feels above other individuals and with the ability to do what they want.

Sexual disorders will be considered when these behaviors are absolutely necessary to achieve sexual arousal and become an impulse that is difficult for the individual to control. They tend to be more common in men than in women. The difficulty is that there is no consensus to establish a precise limit between what would be the unusual sexual interest and the paraphilia. There is even debate about whether any of the considered paraphilias should appear in the diagnostic manuals or not..

Whether or not a behavior is considered paraphilic depends on prevailing social conventions, for example oral sex or masturbation were once considered paraphilic behaviors, for this reason a definitive list of paraphilias cannot be made.

To summarize, not every unusual erotic practice is considered paraphilia. To be considered as such, it must cease to be a healthy and controllable practice by the individual who performs it. In addition, they must be behaviors not accepted by the majority of the population, they can even be classified as a crime if people who have not given their consent are involved or there is a clear abuse of power as in the case of pedophilia..

This does not mean that “unusual” sexual conduct by consenting adults performed occasionally should be considered paraphilia. Many couples do paraphilic practices in bed and it is just another sexual game. The problem is when for a person it is the only way to feel sexual pleasure. It depends on the degree of affectation in the sexual life of the person, they can be considered mild (if the individual rarely expresses or manifests it), moderate (more explicit but controlled behaviors) or serious (when they become obsessions).

Types of paraphilias

Paraphilias can include from various human and non-human objects, actions of inflicting suffering on oneself or another individual and involving people who have not given their consent to participate voluntarily in the sexual act.

Although there are countless behaviors that could be defined as paraphilic, in the following list we are going to summarize the most common ones;

  • Pedophilia: The source of sexual pleasure comes from an undeveloped child. It is one of the most punished paraphilias in our society since it can leave strong consequences in its victims.
  • Exhibitionism: It is the public exposure that a person makes of their genitals in a deliberate way, the person who carries it out has the intention of causing fear or surprise to others and that reaction is what causes their excitement. It is another of the paraphilias penalized by law.
  • Fetishism: In this case the person obtains sexual pleasure through objects that belong to another person, such as underwear or shoes. A variant would be transvestite fetishism, in which the person disguises himself as the opposite sex. It is a very common and socially accepted paraphilia.
  • Frouterism: It consists of rubbing the most intimate parts with other people without their consent, as if it were an accident, it often occurs in crowded places such as public transport.
  • Masochism / Sadism: The person derives great pleasure from being attacked or humiliated by his partner, its opposite would be sadism.
  • Voyeurism: They are individuals who like to see other people performing the sexual act or like to observe naked people or in their erotic activities. They have no interest in going to places where nudity is allowed, like nude beaches; it is the forbidden of the situation and the risk of being discovered that excites them. These people usually accompany the observation of others with masturbation which allows them to reach orgasm.
  • Zoophilia: It is when you seek pleasure with animals, there may be intercourse, oral sex or simply generate pleasure with mere contact. It seems to be more frequent in rural areas and in socially isolated individuals.

These are some of the most common paraphilias, but not the only ones. The list is almost endless as it depends on the human imagination.


American Psychiatric Association (APA). (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-V-TR. Barcelona: Masson

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